Up to 100,000 experienced teachers will be denied an expected £1,000 pay rise next year because the Government has failed to set aside the necessary funds, teachers' leaders warned yesterday.
All six teachers' unions have demanded a meeting with Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education, warning that the decision will thwart attempts to keep good classroom teachers in the profession.
Under the Government's performance-related pay scheme, every teacher trapped at the top of the pay scale for classroom staff gets a pay rise of £2,000 if they pass an assessment of their teaching quality. Having crossed this threshold, they then become eligible for further £1,000 pay rises over the next few years, provided they maintain their quality, taking their pay ceiling to £31,000 a year.
But ministers have only set aside enough cash to finance next year's £1,000 rises for half of the 197,000 teachers who become eligible next September.
They have earmarked £250m for the rises over the next two years – enough to meet the cost of paying the further rises to only 50 per cent of those eligible. The money also has to cover payments for newly qualified teachers of excellent quality who can be "fast-tracked" through the pay scales.
Ministers say the money is sufficient because they do not expect every teacher to qualify for the £1,000 rise.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "Headteachers are desperately upset and angry about this. If the Government doesn't do something about this, they would be forced into a position where they're having to demoralise half their teaching staff who are performing well by not paying the rises – or raid other parts of the school budget, say for books and equipment, to meet the cost.
"David Blunkett [the former secretary of state for education] made great play of the fact that the pay ceiling for a classroom teacher would be £31,000 under this system. The majority who passed the threshold felt they would get there, but now it appears that will not be so.
"It is the thing that most troubles headteachers at the moment. It has got immense implications for teacher retention with the very real prospect that many experienced staff may be tempted to leave."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education and Skills said: "We do not expect every teacher now on the higher pay scale to pass the more searching requirements for moving up that pay scale. It is for heads to make decisions on progression to further points on the upper pay scale."
Union leaders have urged the profession's independent pay review body to make a ruling when it reports in the new year. The unions say the row will sour talks over their workload with ministers. A steering group has been set up by Ms Morris with union leaders and government representatives to discuss ways of "modernising" the profession, including giving teachers more time out of the classroom for marking and preparation.
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